Belmont Park Jump Analysis and Picks

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The September nap is over. Time to open the blinds and read the form. It’s time for the autumn steeplechase schedule. The ST handicappers took the summer off (tending to The Saratoga Special and other projects) but we’re back with two races at Belmont Park Thursday and a full weekend of races at Shawan Downs and Foxfield.

Wading all the way back to Fair Hill in May, the spring totals go like this. Tom “Pink Sheet” Law leads with 30 wins. After a spring lead, Sean “Cup of Coffee” Clancy has slipped to second with 28. Joe “I want to be Andy Serling” Clancy trails with 24.

Here’s a look at today’s races at Belmont Park.

Race 1. 1:30. The William Entenmann Memorial Handicap. $75,000. 2 1/4 miles.

Novices return for another crack at a big check and, well, most of these are old friends after clashing at Saratoga.

1. No Wunder. Kept busy at Saratoga with three races in five weeks, the British-bred improved in his final start with a nearly 10-length drubbing of handicappers. Returns in three weeks but must be respected. Jack Doyle will certainly slither him to the back and try to make one run like he did at Saratoga. Short field, sweeping turns makes the task easier.

2. New Member. Unlucky in his first American start when forced over and around a beacon on the final turn, he was going well that day and might have beaten today’s rival and stablemate Moscato. Stretched to five turns in his next start, he failed to threaten, 20 lengths behind Moscato. That was a lackluster effort but maybe he bounced after a big effort in his stateside debut. Capable Irishman Danny Mullins takes the ride. Big price.

3. Lachares. Irish-bred makes his American debut for Richard Valentine. Owns three wins in his home country, including his most recent start when handling handicappers at Kilbeggan. When horses arrive from Europe, they face a different test here and a lot of their success depends on how they handle the firm ground, this 4-year-old won over soft twice and heavy once, so, still that question to answer.

4. Surprising Soul. Rode a three-race win streak into Saratoga, which quickly turned into a two-race losing streak with a fourth behind Moscato and New Member and an early pull up when he lost his action early against novices. Certainly showed enough ability in the spring but now faces many questions.

5. Mutasaawy. If he wins, does it count as another stakes win for the great Tapit? Yes, Tapit sires jumpers too. High-quality ones at that. Seven-year-old has shown an affinity for the jumping game with two wins and a second in three starts and now takes the logical step into the novice stakes division. Lacks experience but talent can sometimes make up for that. Obvious second choice behind Moscato.

6. Moscato. Trained by Sir Mark Prescott, who was in town for the Keeneland sales last week, this gray son of Hernando has helped catapult Bruton Street-US to the top of the owner’s standings and looks poised to add another $45,000 to the coffers. Yes, he had a busy Saratoga but no trainer can keep a horse on boil like Jack Fisher and the trend should continue here. Deserving and imposing favorite.

7. Zio Elio. Likable newcomer to the game produced a solid effort in his first start at Saratoga but that was restricted to allowance foes. In his next start, against the likes of these, the New York-bred lacked alacrity at his hurdles and wound up fifth. That effort could have sharpened him up for another try against novices or could have set him back. Hard to say, but we’ll cheer for him, rather than bet him.

8. Kensington Court. Well, here’s your speed. Trainer and jockey have been known to pull off wire jobs and this former Todd Pletcher-trainee pulled two last year, rolling to dominant wins at Fair Hill and Saratoga. Trouble is, he hasn’t been seen since his 14-length demolition back in July, 2016. We’ll watch.

The Picks:
Tom: Moscato, Mutasaawy, No Wunder.
Sean: New Member, Moscato, Mutasaawy.
Joe: Moscato, Mutasaawy, Lachares.


Race 2. The Lonesome Glory Handicap. Grade 1. $150,000. 2 ½ miles.

Here’s the third, longest and final New York Grade 1 hurdle stakes of the year. In the past, the fresh horse has flourished against the battle-weary ones from Saratoga. Joe and Tom leap on that angle with Hinterland, last seen in the Iroquois in May.

1. All The Way Jose. If there’s a horse who might appreciate the stretch in distance, perhaps, he’s the one, after finishing third in the New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga. A big galloper, he should appreciate the wide turns and could land a share, although, he’s yet to prove he can beat the best in the game after a long and lucrative career. Maybe use him in the bottom of the exotics but only if he’s bigger than his 3-1 morning line.

2. Swansea Mile. Another one who ran huge in his first start at Saratoga and a little dull in his second. Was it the ground? He relished the good ground in the A.P. Smithwick, upsetting today’s rival Modem and others, then finished fifth on firm turf in the Turf Writers.

3. Charminster. Veteran’s best days look like they’re long behind him as he rides an eight-race losing streak into another stakes try. Irish-bred has been a loyal servant to Irv Naylor and Cyril Murphy and if you look back, he ran hard here last year, winding up third behind Scorpiancer. Reunited with Sloan, who partnered him that day. Cool horse. Tough ask.

4. Simonon. A world-traveling veteran who’s banked over $900,000 in his 57-race career, the 10-year-old has yet to flourish since being imported here for the 2017 season. Blinkers added, hoping to reignite a flame that’s flickering.

5. Hinterland. Fisher decided to put the fragile French-bred veteran on the shelf immediately after a strong effort in the Iroquois in May. This has always been the plan and he should come here fit and ready. Don’t forget his effort in this race back in 2015, when hounding Bob Le Beau to a half-length. As we wrote earlier, the fresh horse seems to thrive at Belmont and this is the fresh horse.

6. Mr. Hot Stuff. Wow, one of the greats still going strong at age 11. Well-chronicled throughout his storied career, the full-brother to Travers winner Colonel John ran in the Kentucky Derby and has earned over $200,000 over hurdles. Obviously fragile – his form still includes an allowance win at Penn National with Willie Dowling back in 2011 – and obviously talented. Actually traveled well for a long time in the Turf Writers and will certainly benefit from that after missing his prep in the Smithwick. One for the ages, if he pulls it off.

7. Casino Markets. The Irish-based veteran made his American debut in the Turf Writers but never traveled and wound up eighth, beaten 22 lengths. Emma Lavelle adds Lasix to the 9-year-old, who should enjoy the wider turns and should (or could) improve with one test run under his belt. It would still be a shocker.

8. Modem. Last and certainly not least. British-bred, Irish-raced 7-year-old took to our game with aplomb, finishing second in the Smithwick and Turf Writers while giving away 14 pounds in the former and 18 pounds in the latter. Were those efforts too much? In the past, horses with those kinds of tests at Saratoga have performed under par at Belmont. Only history would keep you from tabbing him as the winner here. Evidently, the ST Handicapper are history buffs as none of them pick the obvious favorite in a contest that doesn’t reward prices, just winners. Hmmm.

The Picks:
Tom: Hinterland, Modem, All The Way Jose.
Sean: Mr. Hot Stuff, Modem, Hinterland.
Joe: Hinterland, Modem, All The Way Jose.